Android Apps

Android Apps evolve to keep up with technology: new versions of the Android OS, new features (e.g. Chromecast)

I used PocketCasts happily to search for and download podcasts. It was acquired by some podcast content providers in 2018, and “upgraded” to version 7 in March 2019. I noticed bugs – the phone got hot and showed high battery use (this was noted in a Reddit thread); playback froze when I used the cast function to play it over my home audio. Also, the app nagged and nudged users to create an account and log in to a Web service. The bugs may have been tied to using the service without registering. Others complained that some features disappeared.

There are podcast/media player apps with more features and less bugs.

I found Player FM as a replacement for PocketCasts. It did not nudge to create an account – it would not start without creating an account and logging in with a third party service.

Many new Apps require a login with Google or Facebook. A user id is a good data key but is based on personally identifiable information. This is essential data to make surveillance economics work.

I have an Android streaming box. The home page is an Android TV App launcher skin. It came preloaded with “home screen channels” presenting rows of “Play Next” links – suggestions – from Netflix, Amazon Prime and Google Play. These channels can be turned off. These channels extend the services onto the device home page, even when the Apps themselves are not otherwise active.

For about 3-4 weeks, a Google App Store “App Spotlight” channel would show up every time I turned the box on, even after I switched it off on the previous session. There was a Reddit – people suggested turning off Google Play services updates to kill the zombie channel. Others thought that Google would patch it.

These services want my attention, even when I have other ideas of how to spend my time and what to watch. I used to think when I bought a device I owned it and could control it. But somebody thinks I owe a company my time to take pitches for new content and services.

Email 2018

I used Outlook 2010 and Outlook  2013 as my desktop email client because they were nearly free. Employees of my employer got the Office Suites for a nominal charge. (my employer rolled back to Word 2010, and Outlook 2010 connected to its MS Exchange server). The programs did what I needed. I had a server account at my ISP. Outlook connected with the server using POP3, a version of Post Office Protocol.  I began to consider letting go of my ISP after giving up the cable box and cable TV. This may mean I give up email account and address when I give up the Cable ISP service, and go with a new service. This meant thinking about a new email address on a webmail service, and a new email client.

Outlook was a message user agent (client) for Microsoft Exchange Server using proprietary MAPI protocols. It still is. In the enterprize enviroment a client connects to the enterprize email server which stores messages and connects to the Internet.  Outlook has the capability to manage local copies of messages in a PST file (a dedicated database), which lets it function as a standalone internet email client. Outlook 2013 did not easily support, contrary to MS Outlook 2013 Support articles and publicity about Hotmail Connector and Exchange Active Sync, connecting to an Outlook.com account. This is ironic after MS “improved” Outlook, creating a lock-in effect for its Hotmail/Outlook.com services and more of a walled garden or closed platform approach to services.

Outlook 2013 does not easily support IMAP. The capability may be there. For instance, there are resources that explain making an IMAP connection in Outlook, which may work or may have been outdated by changes in Windows and the Office Suite. Searching for ways to adapt Outlook 2013 is frustrating and time consuming. This makes using Outlook with webmail platforms other than Hotmail/Outlook difficult.

Outlook 2013 has already started  its spiral into obsolesence.  Newer versions have been web/cloud based (software as a service), which leaves MS with a stream of income as long as consumers will stay with MS as rentier. Staying with Outlook as client means subscribing, which will not be cheap, and being locked in.

There are desktop email clients that support IMAP, and downloading and local storage of messages.  IMAP is a robust standard, even if Microsoft deprecates it. It works with webmail, although it is a conceptual leap from POP, and requires some management. Time to move on.

4 Years of IT, WordPress

I made some IT changes in the past few years.  I bought a used HP desktop in 2011 – a 64 bit machine-  and put Windows 8 Developer edition (free at the time) on it.  I have stayed with Windows 8 – using the desktop interface. I have an iPad – a gift when I was sick.  But I tried to I stay out of the Apple universe except for iTunes and an iPod to play podcasts and music.

I tried out different browsers and by last year had gone back to Firefox – I was on the Nightly releases for 64 bit machines – which seemed to work fine.  I never liked MS Internet Explorer.  I started to use Chrome when I moved to an Android phone last summer. I chose to submit to Google rather than Apple or MS. Privacy is hard.

At work, we have had an IT “refresh” last week (finally) and moved to Windows 7 Enterprise for workstation OS and MS Office 2010 for tools. Goodbye to Vista.  MS had a good idea – an OS with security, but a slow and difficult program. MS is still selling desktop Office to enterprise buyers, but it is pushing the cloud-based licensing model for the “365” product for consumer buyers. Eventually we will all be tenant-serfs in someone’s better IT world.

I had kept up with Movable Type updates, but MT stopped providing updates to old purchasers (and a shrinking user and support community) so I made the switch to WordPress.

The Movable Type editor has 2 screens to compose entries as a body and an extended entry.  The MT export and the WP import put the 2 part entries into single entries.  “Pages” and tags did not convert. Links to photos and other “assets” in entries may point to addresses in my old MT static directory, but they work. Good enough.

Toshiba Satellite A200 without Vista

Over the last 6 weeks I spent more time than I want to think about trying to get a new Satellite (Model A200, or A200-03V, specifically PSAE3C-03V08C) to run an alternative OS to its pre-installed Windows Vista. The laptop was attractively priced, perhaps because it was pre-loaded with Vista, as much as the fact that it was being cleared out for newer models. I think these models were engineered for XP and thrown on to the market with Vista drivers when Microsoft terminated its OEM licencing for XP installations, forcing computer manufactures to pre-install Vista.
Given the resources of the system – processor and memory – it falls short of what it seems to take to run Vista, and running Vista has other drawbacks.I wasn’t sure about changing to XP although that is the route I took in the end. One problem, for me and many users is having to buy XP off the shelf. There is a cost factor, and even if I had owned a valid working copy of XP, I needed to get working drivers for the hardware in the Satellite to complement the install set and complete the installation. Another potential problem is losing the recovery functions that Toshiba builds in with its HDD Recovery Utility.

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Pictures

My Canon G3 digital camera and Sony desktop computer stayed in Winnipeg with Claire. I got a Canon Powershot 410 before moving. I bought it at Shopper’s Drugs. It runs on 2 AA batteries. It didn’t have a DC adapter and I didn’t want to use battery power while the camera was transferring files to the computer over a USB connection. The Canon adapter is expensive and it would have been a special order – which I wasn’t going to wait for. A card reader was a less expensive and quicker option. It works to transfer the .JPG files from the camera card to the computer. It seems to be a simple and faster way to move images – plug the card into the reader, and the reader into the USB port, and copy the image files on the card to a new folder or file on my computer. From there I can crop and compress images with MS Photo Editor and attach them to emails or upload them here. I couldn’t install the Canon image management software on my Pentium MMX Toshiba, under Win 98SE. The Canon software, which I had been running on the Sony before I gave the computer to Claire, had useful features for organizing files and getting thumbnail views, but I think there is nothing special about that. I can probably get the same functions in Photoshop – it’s a question of finding something that works on this machine, or waiting to get settled in and getting a more powerful home computer. Meanwhile I can shoot, save and send so it’s all working.

Link farm

When my future ex-wife started using the Internet, and when her mother and aunt started using the Internet, they used to forward email chain letters to me. I sent them information about web sites with information about virus hoaxes and urban myths, and explained how to bookmark them (I like bookmark – a much better word than Microsoft’s Favorite).
Wolfgang Stiller had a site at www.stiller.com/hoaxes.htm. He called his site Stiller Research. Quite a few pages linked to his hoax information page. He had developed a shareware virus checker called Integrity Master. He seemed to be a serious and knowledgeable person, regarded as an authority on viruses, data security and virus hoaxes. Googling the name brings up the president of the North European division of Alcan, an artist in New York, a mountaineer in Colorado Springs, and lots of hits relating to virus information – most of them going to stiller.com. He may be the mountaineer in Colorado Springs.
His hoax page is gone. Googling Stiller Research still brings up hits at stiller.com, but it has become a link farm. Nothing but ads. The page source suggests the site has been taken over by hitfarm, a notorious adware site.

November 7, 2005

Wikipedia’s start page has a daily featured article, an entry selected as the article of the day. For football fans, on November 7, 2005 the featured article is about the Arsenal Football Club which plays in the FA Premier League in England.
The French urban riots made the front page of the Free Press today – a picture of firefighters trying to put out the fire in a burning car. Wikipedia had a problem with the story over the weekend – competing rewrites and disputes over whether the article overstated the role of Islam in the rioting. They had an objectivity flag on the story on Sunday, but they have worked that out. Their article is now called 2005 French Urban Violence.